Bahrain opposition figures given life sentences

MANAMA, (Reuters) – Bahrain sentenced eight  prominent Shi’ite Muslim activists and opposition leaders to  life in prison yesterday on charges of plotting a coup during  protests in the Gulf island kingdom earlier this year.

The sentencing stoked tensions in the kingdom, where small  groups of demonstrators have held daily protests since emergency  law was lifted on June 1, and may undermine a national dialogue  planned by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to start next month.

“No dialogue with al-Khalifa! We demand the release of the  prisoners,” shouted some 100 protesters in one village near the  capital Manama, before riot police broke up the demonstration.

In all 21 defendants, six of them tried in absentia, were  charged with plotting to overthrow the government by force in  collusion with “a terrorist organisation” working for a foreign  country. They can appeal the sentences. Seconds after the verdict was issued, one of the defendants  lined up in grey prison suits shouted: “We will continue our  peaceful struggle.” Other defendants responded by shaking their  fists and shouting “peaceful, peaceful”.

Policemen hustled them from the courtroom. Some relatives  responded by chanting the Muslim rallying cry “Allahu akbar”  (God is greatest) and one woman was dragged out of the chamber. Among those who received life sentences was Shi’ite  dissident Hassan Mushaimaa, leader of the hardline opposition  group Haq, and Abduljalil al-Singace, from the same party. Haq  joined two other groups in calling for the overthrow of the  monarchy during mass protests in February and March.

Abdel Wahab Hussain, head of Wafa, another group that called  for a republic, was also jailed for life. Ibrahim Sharif, Sunni  Muslim leader of the secular leftist Waad party, received five  years in prison. Waad and Bahrain’s largest Shi’ite opposition  group Wefaq had called for reform of the monarchy.

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